Cloud Computing Befuddles Consumers, Despite Use: Study

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According to recent research from The NPD Group, only 22 percent of consumers in the U.S. are familiar with the term "cloud computing." What's more, The NPD Group found, is that those unfamiliar with the term "cloud computing" frequently leverage cloud services.

The research found that 76 percent of U.S. respondents used some form of Internet-based cloud service within the past year, whether e-mail, tax preparation software, online gaming or another service. Regardless, nearly one quarter -- 24 percent -- of U.S. consumers reported purchasing computer-based software applications within the last six months, showing that cloud services have not fully supplanted desktop-based applications.

"Whether they understand the terminology or not, consumers are actually pretty savvy in their use of cloud-based applications," Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis for NPD, said in a statement. "They might not always recognize they are performing activities in the cloud, yet they still rely on and use those services extensively. Even so, they are not yet ready to completely give up on traditional PC-based software applications."

The NPD Group's research gauged the cloud computing activities of "savvy" and "non-savvy" consumers and found that those who are familiar with cloud computing tend to use it more than those who are unfamiliar with the term. However, the results depend on the type of cloud activity. The research found some differences and some parity between savvy and non-savvy cloud consumers.

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The survey found that e-mail was the most commonly used cloud application with 84 percent savvy and 68 percent non-savvy consumers using it. E-mail was followed by gaming with 47 percent savvy and 38 percent non-savvy; tax preparation with 44 percent savvy and 39 percent non-savvy; photo sharing with 49 percent savvy and 33 percent non-savvy; video sharing with 44 percent savvy and 31 percent non-savvy; office productivity with 33 percent savvy and 24 percent non-savvy; and disc backup and storage with 31 percent savvy and 20 percent non-savvy.

"Tax preparation is one area that bridges the PC-cloud divide," Baker added. "The consumer's knowledge and sophistication matter little in terms of how much they use tax prep services; additionally, it is the only type of cloud-based application consumers have shown a willingness to pay for. This might indicate a path to help consumers understand the value of computing in the cloud, and allow retailers and service providers to monetize additional services."